The leading developer of flight simulation add-ons PMDG has a reputation for pushing the envelope when it comes to delivering realistic and immersive flight experiences, particularly with Boeing airliners. In a freshly posted forum thread, Robert S. Randazzo, the founder of PMDG, made an exciting announcement about the upcoming introduction of the PMDG Universal Flight Tablet (UFT) into the PMDG 737 fleet for Microsoft Flight Simulator : registered customers will get it installed next October 30th as a free update !
In his forum post, he highlighted that the PMDG UFT is not just an “Electronic Flight Bag” (EFB) in the traditional sense. While EFBs are commonly used in real-world aviation for flight planning and management, they are typically rigid and limited in functionality. The PMDG team recognized the need for a more dynamic and open tablet-like solution that would be versatile and adaptable to various tasks, enhancing the simulation experience in MSFS.
This bold decision to develop a cutting-edge UFT meant tackling a host of technical challenges. The PMDG team had to find ways to connect a C++/WASM-based aircraft in MSFS to the outside world, despite inherent limitations in the simulator’s communication capabilities. They had to overcome these challenges and learn to work with scripting languages to create an intelligent, interactive tablet within the simulator.
Initially, the communication between the aircraft and the UFT required a complex remote server setup, but the release of an MSFS service update (SU13) unlocked the needed communication capabilities within the simulator itself. This simplification made the tablet’s communication with the aircraft more efficient and seamless.
The UFT is designed to be a versatile platform for multiple applications, with a focus on enhancing the flight simulation experience. The first set of applications that will come with the UFT includes:
Flight Plans/SimBrief Integration:
- Importing flight plans from SimBrief.
- Downloading weather information for the flight plan route.
- Sharing flight plans and weather data between the tablet and the aircraft.
- Displaying the Operational Flight Plan.
- Displaying real-time METAR information in native or simplified formats.
- Navigraph Charts integration (requires a Navigraph subscription).
- Georeferenced aircraft position on displayed charts where applicable.
- Flight-centric chart selection and pinning of desired charts.
- Takeoff, diversion, and landing performance calculations.
- Data import from flight plans or the aircraft itself.
- Reduced runway length computations.
- Graphic display of displaced threshold data.
The PMDG team has more features in development and testing, with many ideas coming directly from the flight simulation community’s feedback. Future updates will bring additional functionalities, including the ability to manage PMDG options, functions, and failures directly from the UFT.
The core functionality of the UFT includes data entry through an attached keyboard or an on-screen keyboard, the option to switch between metric and imperial units, and a day/night setting. The tablet also provides independent and fully functioning pilot and copilot tablets.
PMDG’s vision for the UFT is one of continuous development, turning it into a feature-rich garden of tools that enhance the flight simulation experience with PMDG products. The team has expanded its development efforts to support this vision and is collaborating with external developers to integrate their applications into the UFT.
The introduction of the PMDG Universal Flight Tablet is set for October 30, 2023. This update promises to bring a new level of realism and functionality to the PMDG 737 and will lay the groundwork for future fleet-wide integration across all PMDG jet airliners.
With the PMDG UFT, flight simulation enthusiasts can look forward to a more immersive and interactive experience, and the possibilities for new applications and features are boundless. Stay tuned for the release, as the fun part is just around the corner!
Images from the forum post, introduced below, provide a glimpse of what’s to come, including the tablet’s preferences manager, simbrief and Navigraph integration, and zoom and scroll capabilities for viewing charts, all of which will enhance your flight simulation experience in the PMDG 737 and beyond.
As the release date approaches, PMDG users can anticipate a richer, more dynamic experience that truly models the future of flight simulation.